Manda's Musings


It is rare – or at least in the not too distant past it was rare – that I would rant at the radio in the car listening to the news. 

On Mueller’s release of his report I was 99% relieved to hear there was no evidence linking our president or his campaign committee to the actions Russia took against our nation’s election. I was pleasantly surprised I heaved a sigh of relief – that our nation’s sovereignty and integrity were not eclipsed by personal avarice on the part of our president or his campaign committee – and that I preferred that to his demise. 

And then I heard Trump intended to seek ‘revenge’ against those who pursued the investigation. And I heard Republicans say the process ‘never should have happened’ – as if the decision to do so came out of thin air with no basis in reality or truth. And my rant began.

“Are you joking?! The man, on national television, virtually invited Russia to hack federal level emails; he denied business ties with Russia later found to be that and then some; as president he challenged the legitimacy of our top-level investigative bureau’s findings that Russia interfered with our national elections. What is there not to investigate?!”

Investigate – that’s how democracies remain democracies – or at least some semblance thereof.


Musical theater can tear at the heartstrings. The masterful songs dive deep into the heart. There is something about hearing the deep struggles we experience brought to the surface in song and story. Something safe about that. I may not be able to work it out so easily and smoothly in my own life – but I can send it out my ether message as I hear and see it (and play it) in a show, and let it glom on to what’s happening – resolving it just that much more by the hand of the writer who, in most instances, resolves it for the stage.

I herald the courage of actors who draw themselves into and through those moments. As I’ve witnessed in some of these college classes I’m playing for, sometimes the message overwhelms the messenger and touches too close to home for the moment. But then it’s done, and just a bit more healing has been woven through.


Last Friday was a dream come true.

Our home inundated with teenagers from 4 -11pm. Started off with five playing video games on Playstation and various laptops. After some time two moved on to piano and guitar. One energetically convinced group to sit in the middle of the living room floor and play an improvised card game with Uno cards after which they caught sight of Boomwhackers and used them non-traditionally (if you can claim any traditionality of Boomwhackers) in an inside-outside-upstairs-downstairs swordfight. 

Eventually gastrointestinal calls won out and the whole group tumbled out to Bill’s Pizza for supper, returning with two additionals. They hung out for a while when the two latecomers (a couple) left. Eventually some of the original five donned running gear and all went out for a walk/run – to the Cotillion at the High School – which none of them sought to attend. But they came back home with one additional – dressed in a snappy spring dance dress – who they convinced through texts and handwaving outside Cotillion cafeteria windows – to abandon said dance and join them in their escapades. Alerting her parental units, she opted in.

A magnificent pianist, after purchasing and consuming individual pints of (chocolate!) Ben&Jerry’s, a jam session ensued – replete with two djembes. And all were up wide-eyed until 11pm when the last was retrieved by parents.

Like I said – last Friday was a dream come true.


Political affiliations aside – I have found these last few years under our current federal administration to be extremely trying for my sense of morality and humanity. Though in private discourse I do believe there can be some tolerance of ‘no holds barred’ statements, on the public, national, global scale – if a civilization is to maintain civility – no.

But – sometimes when there is a plethora of egregious output from one camp, I appreciate witnessing a well-placed remark – that is – a remark that resonates with my inner leanings while at least maintaining a nod toward decorum.

Hence, hearing an interview with Mark Salter – a friend of John McCain’s with whom he co-authored several books – I smiled to myself.

The interviewer asked for Salter’s views on why he thought Trump found it necessary to persist attacking the deceased senator and war hero. Salter replied, “I don’t know. I’m not a child psychologist.”


These past few weeks have been difficult and good. 

I gave over a music director job in Connecticut for Sweeney Todd I was jazzed for, because I realized, after a period of practicing the complex piano score, I would not have it up to par by the first two run-throughs so crucial to the success of the rehearsal period kick-off.

Upon admitting my failure to a friend – she claimed it a victory: I assessed the situation, alerted the director in plenty of time, and accepted the responsibility and outcome. That sort of victory is a hard sell for me – but I’m learning.

One of my jobs is playing piano for Dean College’s Musical Theater classes. I accompany several young artists in audition songs. One of yesterday’s songs was ‘Breathe’. In an earlier rehearsal the gal singing it subtly alluded to her complicated attachment to the song. I nodded lightly.

‘Breathe’ , from ‘In The Heights’, is sung by a young gal coming back to her old neighborhood where everyone believed she was going to make it big. She didn’t. She’s getting ready to face them and is reminding herself to just ‘breathe.’ Yesterday the Dean College actor broke down at the song’s emotional pinnacle moment. She couldn’t continue. Too close to home. 

This nearly sixty-year-old artist wanted to run over and say, “Do not believe the stories you tell yourself. Be exactly where you are at this moment and continue to do the best you can do and trust that the life you are building will be the right life for you. Please! Focus on ‘what is’ and not ‘what is not’ – because the first is so productive and healthy to focus on – and the latter so vast, unforgiving and relentless.”

Just breathe.


In clearing away the wreakage of our accumulation I came across one of those Christmas tins cookies and baked goods are given. I thought I had just tossed the empty can in the hutch one day as I ‘cleaned.’ 


It was filled with little pieces of paper with snippets I jotted down of Sam-isms. Our neighbor suggested I do that rather than try to keep a book. 

I haven’t laughed so hard in ages!

Here’s one. I believe Peter and I took Sam camping but took a jaunt into a nearby New Hampshire town. Upon passing a certain shop in Ellsworth, four year old Sam said: “OK! If people’s hair gets long there’s a barbershop. THAT’S GOOD!”


The three main steps of Julie Morgenstern’sOrganizing from the Inside Out’ process are: ANALYZE/STRATEGIZE/ATTACK. Most everyone goes right away to ATTACK but she makes clear the necessary visit to ANALYZE/STRATEGIZE.

I eyed our green hutch and have had at it and have a long, long, long, long, etc. way to go.

BUT – I LOVE the ATTACK. Think the acronym SPACE: Sort/Purge/Assign a home/Containerize (I love that word!)/Equalize.

The past two days I’ve been working on our hutch. I had the best sleep I’ve had in a long time last night. I’m not tackling the whole house – just one space at a time.


Last Friday before heading up North, I cruised the library looking for hopefuls. Lately I’ve read pretty deeply into stories and found I had to put them down due to either not caring enough about what happens, or situations/setting being too unsettling for peace of mind.

Carrying a pile of books and DVDS to the counter for check out, one cover caught my eye: The Night Circusby Erin Morgenstern. I grabbed it. 

On Saturday the flu made itself at home while on my solo retreat up in Waterville Valley. Though I still cranked out a few cross-country skiing treks, by Sunday’s drive home my whole body was a warzone. Upon arriving home, sleeping, waking up and trying to read, I realized adding to the pressing drudgery was the novel I was reading.  When I could once again stomach reading, I put that one down and picked up The Night Circus. It nursed me back to health, I’m sure.

Finally on Wednesday I felt recovered enough to contribute to family life. I watched the DVD I picked up to fix my life: Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. (See next post.)

Yesterday, as I was ‘containerizing’ our green hutch, it struck me – the authors – Erin Morgenstern/Julie Morgenstern. I checked to make sure. 

Of all the choices in the library last Friday, what forces brought those two namesakes to my attention? Both lifesavers.


It’s a strange experience – recording a song over and over, honing lyric and melody, and not knowing exactly where you stand in your own beliefs.

It’s okay. I believe in love. I do. I believe in it in all its forms. All its religious, spiritual, atheistic and action oriented expressions.

Originally I wrote the lyric in (nearly) complete immersion in catholocism in its lower case iteration. Matthew 11:28-30 was part of my life being renewed. In my thirties I went through a very painful times. Two young, beautiful children and a challenging marriage, made all the more challenging by my own inner troubles. The pain became so intense that I sought help – voluntarily hospitalizing myself for a few days until I could get the help I needed. I got that help and for that I am forever grateful.

I don’t recall exactly when it was – but I found myself in the sanctuary of this small catholic church in Southborough – St. Matthew Church. I was feeling particularly shredded and walked up to the bible, randomly opening it. My eyes fell on Matthew 11:28-30 – the chorus lyric of this song. 


Leaving Neverland. 

From the Internet I learned of and from the two young men Michael Jackson sexually abused and I’ve been forced to accept that very sick man caused some people deep harm.

I know enough to know that we many times cause harm because we’ve been similarly harmed. But I also know there are many who have been harmed who choose to cause no one else that harm. Blessings on them. 

The young Michael Jackson was a musical and performing mentor of mine. As an adult I heard the accusations but held some hope that it was not what it seemed.

It was.

I’m so very very sorry for those two little boys – one seven years old. Rather than a one hundred million dollar lawsuit from his estate against HBO for airing the two-part documentary, Leaving Neverland, would that that one hundred million was offered to organizations that help heal those who have been thusly harmed.